MotionX GPS app for iPhone and iPad


I like travelling and hiking and, I must admit, I like technological gadgets. So I’ve been looking for years for a good GPS device to use when I hike. Size and weight are very important, considering that I also carry a photo camera, as well as ease of use, capability to export tracks and, of course, cost.

The latest one I bought a couple of years ago, Garmin Foretrex, had a good format, you could wear it on your wrist and the battery would last a whole day. But it couldn’t support maps and it was hard work downloading the tracks onto a computer. The older model, Foretrex 201, came with a proprietary, heavy power supply unit and a fiddly, fragile recharging cradle, which was also indispensable to connect to a computer via serial cable. The newer models employ AAA batteries, but this means that, instead of travelling with a large power supply, you travel with spare rechargeable batteries and a charger, unless you want to grace the world with dozens of discarded batteries, to mark you progression. And you end up with an even greater total weight.

Of couse, there are also nice models with maps, they don’t come cheap: a good model may set you back 500 $ for a GPS unit, with maps for one country included. If, like me, you hike in different places in and outside Europe, you would have to invest a small fortune in maps. And it’s still only a GPS unit.

Enter the smartphone.

Ever since I bought my first iPhone 3G, I’ve been experimenting with GPS software and I finished by adopting MotionX GPS, available for the iPad as well.

With MotionX I can actually record the track of a whole hike, lasting 5 hours or more, and still have battery life left in my iPhone4. I like the fact that it’s accurate and I don’t have to buy expensive maps for every country I hike in. If I am in area in which I have a data plan, I can get the maps as I walk, for other countries I can download map sections onto the iPhone before leaving home or using the hotel wifi.

When driving, I am still using a car GPS, for the time being, but the devices I used for hiking now sit at the bottom of a drawer.

If you already have an iPhone, the MotionX software will set you back $2.99. If you don’t, you can get a brand new iPhone and MotionX, for approximately the price of a dedicated GPS device. And you can send your track by e-mail and share it on Facebook or Twitter with one touch, once you’ve set up the sharing options.

Now, the greatest danger for MotionX is if they sit on their laurels and stop improving and updating their software. But they seem to be on a roll, so I don’t think that they will, in the immediate future.

Disclosure: This site is associated with Amazon, not with MotionX or other companies